Iowa Draft Horses and Mules
"Long Day Ahead"
2nd Place in the Family Farm Class at the 2013 Iowa State Fair Photo Salon
Class sponsored by Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area
This photo was taken by Rachel Ritland at the plowing demonstration at Living History Farms. It shows Jim Stuart from his best side driving his 4-up of home grown Belgian mares.
Rachel has taken photos at several of our events and has them posted on
Check it out. Lots of nice photographs!
Dignity and Impertinence
Image reprinted with permission from the Special Collections Department and University Archives, Parks Library, Iowa State University. Research done by Willie Struss with acknowledgments for assistance by John and Joan Kluge, February 1990
The 1965 Farm House on Iowa State campus was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service. The house was built in the 1860’s and the kitchen is being restored and refurnished to reflect that decade. The Library, however, is being restored and refurnished to reflect the years when Dean Curtiss lived there and the library is called the “Curtiss Library”. This period was chosen for the library restoration because a picture of that room in 1908 was available and Dean Curtiss lived in the house for 50 years, making it truly the “Curtiss House”.
Further research on the library furnishings brought forth information indicating the picture “Dignity and Impertinence” had hung in the east window of the Farm House Library. That the picture had hung in that window has not been disputed. What was disputed was the identity of the large horse in that picture, and this paper is a detail of the search for that horse’s identity and the controversy involved.
This is the picture most often reproduced. The picture has worldwide exposure and has been used in text books to demonstrate the wide variance in sizes of horses, but the natural appeal of the picture is its most memorable quality.
Not only was the identity of the pictured horses questioned, even the title of the picture has been disputed. However, research has showed that the printing of the picture in The Iowa Agriculturist, April 1911, Volume 11, No. 8 where it was used as a cover picture shows the contents page of that issue listing the picture as “Dignity and Impertinence”. Credit for the picture was given to F. E. Colburn, who was campus photographer at that time. However, in subsequent offerings as a renewal premium by the Iowa Agriculturist the picture was titled “Two Friends” from Volume 16, November 1915. “Dignity and Impudence” has been listed as the title for the picture also as shown on the cover of Iowa State University Veterinarian Volume 35 No. 2 1973, when some research into the identity of the large horse in the picture was done. This is discussed later.
The next question is: When was the picture taken? The Iowa Agriculturist offered it as a premium, “To every new subscriber or renewed subscription we will GIVE FREE an enlarged size of this horse picture 8 x 12 (without lettering) or a view of the buildings and campus of the Iowa State College (10 x 26) for only 50 cents or a two years subscription and both pictures for $1.00”. The picture would have had to have been taken in the summer of 1910 or earlier as the trees in the picture have leaves on them indicating warm weather.
And now the biggest question: Who is that big horse? Unfortunately the horse was never named in the publications listed above. It was, however, named in the Des Moines REGISTER AND LEADER on Friday morning, December 30th, 1910. The “Horse picture” (was) shown, obviously cut to fit the two column space and the title under the picture was “KUROKI, 2,100 LBS. AND A 19 LB. COLT PHOTOGRAPHED TOGETHER.” The accompanying article reads in part: “A distinctive feature of the Agriculturist is its cover pages. The Christmas cover is a full page picture of Shamrock II, the famous Iowa State College steer, who was made grand champion at the last international. The picture that has made the greatest hit is that of Kuroki, the 2,100 pound Clydesdale stallion and a 19 pound pony colt which is to be used on the April cover of the Agriculturist. The boys have had a number of prints of this picture struck off, and are offering them as premiums to new subscribers. The picture is the work of F. B. Colburn, the college photographer. Since giving this picture to the Agriculturist, Mr. Colburn has been offered $50 for it by an eastern magazine.”
In an attempt to identify the large horse in the picture, The Iowa State Veterinarian contacted alums. Roger Jack, class of 1922, of Fairmont, Minn. responded with a letter saying he had purchased one of these photos in 1918 and talked to Frank Colburn, the college photographer that took the picture. Jack described the photographer’s procedure in that letter to the VETERNARIAN: “The large horse looked down naturally at the colt. In order to have the colt look up they placed his head in a half loop. In the middle of this hoop they extended a pole fastened to the middle of the hoop. At the right time they twisted the colts head to make him look up. When the picture was developed, this apparatus was deleted from the picture.” However, in some prints reins of some sort are visible to both horse and colt. Later prints remove all lines.
If the large horse in the picture has been clearly identified as Kuroki, A Clydesdale stallion, why have so many people declared the horse is Jalap, a famous Percheron stallion?
First, a little research into Jalap’s background. He indeed was a famous ISU Percheron stallion. He could not, however, been the horse in the picture because according to Alex Christian, Secretary, Percheron Horse Association of America, “The horse was imported from France in August of 1911, by J. O. Singmaster, of Keota, IA. At that time the horse was two years old. It was not long after his importation that he went to Iowa State and I believe he died there.”
Since the photograph was taken in the summer of 1910, and Jalap could not have arrived at Iowa State until at least the fall of 1911, the horse is definitely NOT Jalap.Several people have questioned the breed of Kuroki as they do not believe Clydesdales were dapple grey. The Iowa Agriculturist, Volume 8, #4, December 1907, page 138, in reporting results of the international livestock show,Clydesdale division, states: “So keen was the competition that Refiner, the great stallion who up to this time had never met defeat, stood sixth in his class, and Right Forward, last year’s champion failed to get higher than fourth place. The Canadian horse, Sir Marcus, belonging to the Graham Renfrew Co. , won on his especially good middle. Kuroki, the grey stallion that is to be used in the horse breeding work at Iowa State College, won over right forward by a narrow margin. He was the youngest horse in the class, and did not show up as well as he will with a little more development.” Page 139 of that publication shows Kuroki, who is indeed a dappled color. Unfortunately, it’s a black and white picture, so color is still not proven.
Kuroki evidently did well in many shows as the Iowa State Agriculturist, Volume 9, #5, January 1909 shows Kuroki placing 5th at the 1908 International horse show.
Many people have declared that the horse in the picture is not a stallion, but a gelding. This misconception can be traced to the son of Kuroki, American Kuroki, who was actually a Clydesdale-Shire gelding, bred and raised on the College Farm. He could not have been the horse in the picture as he is described in the April 1916 issue of The Iowa Agriculturist pages 526 and 527 as follows: “He was sold this spring as a five year old, weighing 2,040 pounds….” So, when the picture in question was taken, he was not yet born. His picture also on page 527 of that same issue could be the basis for the confusion, as he certainly appears to have the same coloring as the horse in the picture, and the name “American Kuroki could have easily been remembered simply as “Kuroki”, especially after the stallion Kuroki died.
Why was there so much interest in draft horses in Iowa at that time? Iowa State College was at the forefront in developing good draft horses as described in The Iowa Agriculturist, Volume 16, #8, April 1916, pages 455 and 456.
The only remaining question is - what is known about the colt in the picture?
The whole project of identifying the horses in the picture was begun when Mr. Allen Perry, class of 1930, suggested that if the library of Farm House was to be authentically reproduced to Dean Curtiss’ time, then the “horse picture” would have to be hung in the east window where Dean Curtiss had always had it. That started the search for the proper glass on which to have the reproduction made and so on. When the picture was hung and alumni returned to Farm House and saw the picture, discussion always followed with the alumni quickly forming “Jalap” and “Not Jalap” groups. So much discussion ensued that serious research was begun and this report is the result of that research.
Mr. Perry remembered that the colt as being Helen Curtiss’ pony, “Miss Columbia”. However, when a copy of the picture was sent to him, he regretfully corrected himself and said the picture is obviously of a colt and not the pony he remembered. Mr. Perry may not be as wrong as he now believes himself to be; however, as research regarding another project brought an answer from David Shugart of Council Bluffs, Iowa, whose mother was Dean Curtiss’ daughter, Edith, sister of Helen. Mr. Shugart remembers, “The pony of these two animals was a Shetland pony foal that belonged to my mother.” So the colt belonged in one way or another to the Curtiss family. This may also explain how the story got started that the large horse belonged to Curtiss, as Dean Curtiss was very involved with the breeding program for which Jalap was purchased, and Jalap looks very much like the pictured horse, and was better known than was Kuroki. ---------
Yoder Equipment A common question that comes up frequently when discussing draft horses with people outside of the draft horse industry is, “Where do you get horse drawn equipment?” Those of you that are in the draft horse industry know the answer to this question – but others don’t know, don’t care, or assume we all use 100 year old equipment that we pulled out of a fence line somewhere in the pasture. Yes, there are a lot of very old horse drawn implements still in use which are purchased at farm sales, handed down from family and/or purchased at annual draft horse equipment auctions – and many of these old implements still work just fine. There are also horse drawn equipment and/or implement dealers all over the country, most of which are in the Amish communities for the obvious reason. We have a few draft horse equipment dealers here in our state. One of these is Yoder Equipment, just one mile west of Bloomfield in southeast Iowa. Ivan Yoder started this business several years ago and as a result of the service he provides, the quality of his work and availability of new and used implements, he has become a vital resource for numerous horse farmers as well as the hobby draft horse owner. He has gained a reputation as a machinist, welder and mechanic for all types of horse drawn farm equipment. He is a dealer for new horse drawn farm implements made by Pioneer, White Horse, Lancaster, I & J, plus several other companies. Because of this, Yoder Equipment is well known by serious horse farmers in Iowa, Missouri and Illinois as “the place to go” if you’re looking for horse drawn farm equipment. Yoder Equipment can fix it, re-build it, find you a used or new implement or customize modern farm implement to be used with draft horses.Having a horse drawn equipment dealer/mechanic is essential to any horse farmer or horse farming community - just as having a local John Deere or Case dealer is vital to today's conventional farmer. You need a place to go for parts, advice, repairs, purchase new or used equipment, etc. Stop by and see who else may be there on that day so you can discuss the current weather situation, crop forecast and maybe who has purchased a new 2010 Pioneer plow and how they adjusted the line of draft so that new plow pulls easily, evenly and smoothly. Yoder Equipment, as well as other horse drawn equipment shops can be a very educational environment. Pay attention and listen while you’re there and you can be sure to come away with some new information on horse farming.If you’re near Bloomfield, stop by and look over the inventory – it’s worth a stop. Yoder Equipment 19887 Jade Ave.Bloomfield, IA 52537641.664.2797 (leave a message)
Here's Maury Tellen looking at a new White Horse hydraulic forecart while surrounded by wooden tongues, seats, wheel barrows and other essentail farm supplies in the "equipment shed".
Yoder Equipment is a dealer for all types of new Pioneer Equipment - Ivan is the contact for any questions you may have on Pioneer motorized forecarts.
Maury "taking it easy" in the shop on one of Ivan's current projects - rebuiling this old horse drawn manure spreader. Yoder Equipment specializes in repairing and/or rebuilding old spreaders.
There's always a good selection of eveners, neck yokes, mower and spreader parts, etc.
Feeding Hay With Horses
For several years I fed small bales of hay in the same convenient spot beside the barn. Come spring, I would have quite a pile of manure to haul away. Although I enjoy spreading manure with a team, I don’t care much for loading the manure spreader! I decided a better way would be to feed the hay in different areas of the field and let the horses spread their own manure. I built a couple of hay bunks big enough to hold all the hay I would feed for one day. My plan was to have one bunk in the field while the other was parked next to the hay shed, ready to be filled. While the horses ate their grain I would fill the bunk with hay for the day. Then I would hitch up one horse and drag the filled bunk out to the field, hitch to the empty bunk and bring it back. This worked well until I had several horses of different ages that would fight each other at the bunks. That is when I started to haul hay on a sled and spreading the bales out far enough that the horses each had their own pile to eat from. Instead of putting on a full harness each day I tried to come up with something that was light and fast to put on. My first attempt was to take a breeching off of an old harness and put it over the horse’s neck to use like a breast collar. I used a ½” rope for tugs with a large chain link tied to the end to hook to the sled. This worked well on frozen ground or on snow but when the spring thaw came the load was too much for a breast collar. So I then settled on the system I use now. I use a work collar and a set of hames with the ½” ropes tied to the hames for tugs. Instead of a bridal I use a snaffle bit with snaps that I fasten to the halter. The advantage of the removable bit is that I can put it under my coat when I first go out to chore and my body heat will warm up the bit before I put it in the horse’s mouth. This method of feeding has taken care of the manure-hauling problem and has the added benefit of letting me hitch a horse every day. I usually have 4 to 6 broke horses on the farm so by hitching a different horse every day they each get worked every week. They are not on the sled for very long but they do learn to stand while I hitch and are stopped and started several times while I unload the bales. This keeps them well trained for spring fieldwork. One negitive is that without shafts the sled can run up on the horse. I solved this by hooking a 4"x4" post the width of the sled to the front of the sled with a couple of short chains then hooking the single tree to the post. When the horse is pulling the post will be above the ground but when the horse stops the post falls to the ground and blocks the sled. I hope these ideas encourage others to use their horses year round.
Stuart Family Belgians